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Career Planning in Secondary School: Start Early & Keep Options Open

Posted by Gordon Doyle on June 2, 2018 at 10:52 AM

Creative sign with the message - Success AheadThe 1st June tells me that not only is it the first day of winter, but that the year is flying by.  I avoid the temptation to look back at the things I haven’t done – and wish I had.  Or to dwell too much on the things I could have done better – if only there had been more .... time, perhaps?  Instead, I choose to look forward – and I want to encourage you to do the same thing.

Looking forward

Its a clichéd phrase I know, but apart from death and taxes there are no certainties in this life. If you’re a Year 10 student or a senior secondary student, you’re unlikely to be thinking too much about either of these, but almost certainly, the prospect of what you are going to do with your life after leaving school is likely to have already dawned. 

Looking forward, perhaps you can see the many opportunities that stretch out before you.  Perhaps you ask yourself the question:  What do I need to do to keep these opportunities open?  To ensure that I have choice? 

Early planning pays

There are in fact, many things you can do.  This is where early planning pays.  Some young people have a clear idea from an early age what it is they would like to do after leaving school.  In my role as Careers Adviser, some also tell me they haven’t any idea – and it often troubles them. 

Therefore, if your school has a qualified, experienced and well networked Careers Adviser, that person should probably be your first port of call regardless of whether you know what you would like to do, or are yet to work this out.   The Careers Adviser can assist with many things: advice, resources, assessment programs, knowledge, connections, and opportunities to help you clarify your options such as the Big Day In hosted each year by the University of Technology, Sydney.  

If you’re interstate or in New Zealand, similar opportunities will exist. There are many opportunities available that can help a young person planning for the future.

The most important career question: What do I want to do?

Young people are often encouraged to think about things one step at a time.  They are, therefore, often asked about the “course” they plan on doing after they leave school.  This will often mean a university course, but the question needs to be asked much more broadly. 

The question should include TAFE courses, questions about trades areas and apprenticeships, cadetships and scholarships.  But all of these are secondary to the first and the most important career question: What do I want to do?  And this question relates not to courses, but to careers, jobs, occupations – call them what you will. 

The reason this question is the most important question is because there is not a lot of point in choosing to study a particular course – Law for example, or Engineering - or sign up for a particular apprenticeship – Hairdressing, Plumbing, Automotive – unless the course you choose is going to take you in the career direction you want to go.  This is another reason why early planning pays.

The second important career question: How do I get there from where I am now?

Let’s assume you’ve spoken to a Careers Adviser, taken a career assessment, explored your options, undertaken some Work Experience, carefully chosen your senior subjects, narrowed your choices and have at least a reasonably clear idea of the direction in which you want to head – business, for example, even though you may not have the specifics nailed down yet. 

Now you can look at the course options that are going to get you there. 

Open Days

There are many things you can do, but attending open days is important amongst them.  The universities and many TAFE campuses are “open” during the months of August and September. 

You can check the websites of any institutions offering courses that interest you for open day details.  In Australia the website of the Universities Admissions Centre also summarises open day information.  Go to www.uac.edu.au and follow the relevant links. 

Attendance at open days can help  you gather further information,  and keep you focused and motivated.  It can also help you to see that the HSC and the ATAR are just stages in the journey.  They are not the destination. 

I think the very best time to start attending open days is when you are in Year 10.  Just go and enjoy it.  Go with a friend or a small group.  Go with a family member. 

Go again in Year 11 to help refine your thinking in relation to course options and universities. 

And go yet again in Year 12 for the purpose of refining your choices.

Keeping your options open

Not sure exactly what area of business you wish to enter?  Accounting? Finance? Marketing?  Merchant banking?  etc. etc.  You’re interested in Engineering maybe? 

You’ll have plenty of choice.  The University of New South Wales for example teaches engineering across twenty-six separate engineering disciplines.  What about Arts?  The world is your oyster – and you’ll gain some fantastic transferable skills in the process of completing your Arts degree. 

In these and other areas of study, you won’t necessarily need to commit yourself to a specialisation in your first year of study.  You can choose – or “taste” – a number of different areas and delay a decision on specialisation for at least a year.

In an uncertain world, what can you be certain about?

This, I believe.  That if you take some personal responsibility, if you get into the driver’s seat of your own career life and take charge, if you do all the exploration and take every opportunity that adds to your knowledge base and helps you make a good decision about your future, then you can expect to step forward with confidence into the promise of tomorrow.

Good luck, and enjoy the journey!

Gordon Doyle, Careers Adviser.

Related Posts

Why Work Experience is Too Valuable to Miss Out on Doing

Year 10 Students: 4 Principles for Senior Subject Selection

Apprenticeships & Trades - A Good Way, and Maybe Best for Many

5 Common Causes of Anxiety About Transitioning from School

After the NSW Higher School Certificate - What Next?


Topics: Careers

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